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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Petrol deliveries: Visas for foreign lorry drivers extended


Temporary visas are to be issued to 300 overseas fuel drivers “immediately”, the government has announced.

Foreign drivers will be able to work in the UK under the bespoke scheme from now until the end of March.

Furthermore, 4,700 visas for foreign food haulage drivers will be extended by two months, from late October to the end of February.

However, the government has stated that temporary visas are not a long-term solution and has urged businesses to invest in a UK workforce.

Ministers have also extended the duration of temporary visas granted to 5,500 foreign poultry workers, amid concerns that there will be a shortage of Christmas turkeys on supermarket shelves.

The government previously stated that these temporary visas would be valid until Christmas Eve, but they have been extended by a week and will now be valid until December 31.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to recall Parliament from its party conference recess, citing the need for “emergency action.”

Mr Johnson, on the other hand, stated that the UK supply chain was “very resilient.”

The temporary visa scheme for 5,000 foreign lorry drivers was announced a week ago, when the ongoing driver shortage disrupted fuel deliveries to petrol stations across the UK.

On Friday, the Petrol Retailers Association said fuel supply remained a “big problem” in south-east England – and “if anything it had got worse”.

Beginning Monday, 200 military personnel, 100 of whom are drivers, will provide “temporary” assistance to relieve pressure on forecourts, where long lines have become common and customers are frustrated.

This weekend, some of those 200 will be seen on the roads. Many will be accompanying regular tanker drivers on their deliveries after completing specialised training over the past three days.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said there was “enough fuel in the country, there always has been,” but it had been difficult to provide the required number of drivers.

According to the trade association Logistics UK, the UK requires approximately 90,000 HGV drivers, with existing shortages exacerbated by a variety of factors such as the pandemic, Brexit, an ageing workforce, and low wages and poor working conditions.

The foreign drivers eligible for visas will not be limited to the EU, but the majority of the drivers are expected to be from Europe.

Lorry drivers have stated that some of the working conditions are deterring younger recruits – the average age of an HGV driver in the UK is 55.

But the PM has accused the haulage industry – as well as campaign groups representing the food sector – of being too reliant on low-paid migrant workers.

In addition to temporary visas, the government announced a slew of other measures last week aimed at minimising disruption in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

These include increasing HGV (heavy goods vehicle) testing capacity, sending nearly one million letters to HGV drivers to encourage them to return to the industry, and providing HGV driver training courses.

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